Giving Project


The 2021 Giving Project Cohort

Top row L-R: Sarah Best, Zaynab Hameeduddin, Katie Madden, Joanna Preston

2nd row L-R: Kendra Thomas, Jennifer Hernandez, Rae Taylor, Aisha Ismail, Natalie Dibo, Tracey Swanson, Monica Hamada-Peña, Joy Clendenning, Naomi Borowsky

3rd row L-R: Bahati Aimee, Maya Portillo, Jane Yang, Jessyca Dudley, Priscilla Kersten, Kathleen Hayes, Matthew Clark, Aliyah Jervier

Crossroads Fund is so excited to announce our 2021 Giving Project cohort - a multi-racial, cross-class, intersectional group of 21 people who have committed to fundraise $150,000 to fund movement work in Chicago. 

Over the course of six months, this group will have deep personal conversations on race and class, make a monetary donation that is significant to them, fundraise their network through a process of "donor organizing," and practice participatory grantmaking supporting strategic, necessary, and underfunded social justice organizing work around the city. Since 2014, Crossroads Fund's Giving Projects have raised more than $500,000 from over 1,000 donors.




If you want to learn more about the Giving Project (or are interested in participating in the future) read more here.



Giving Project Members

Aisha Ismail

Aisha's journey in advocacy and movement work began in 2012 as a volunteer health educator. Currently, she is the Development & Operations Manager at HEART and the co-founder of Venting & Vibing, a community space created for women of color to talk about their unique challenges in the workplace, share solutions, and heal. 

Reading, writing, creating, and dancing are just a few practices that feed her imagination and deepen her understanding of herself and the world. Aisha is excited to help resource organizing efforts across Chicago with 2021 Giving Project cohort and deepen her knowledge of the city’s organizing landscape.

Aliyah Jervier

With West Indian roots in a city as unique as Chicago, Aliyah (she/her) has experienced first-hand the beauty and struggle of diversity. She is passionate about health and wellness, education, and youth and women’s empowerment. Community engagement and service have influenced her desire to serve BIPOC both in the city and abroad with exceptional organizations, including Global United Diaspora, The Obama Foundation, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Aliyah is currently a Program Associate at Arabella Advisors and a holistic health coach. She is excited to engage with and learn from the 2021 Giving Project group – one love.

Bahati Aimee

Bahati is and has always been passionate about people, relationships, and learning. Most recently, she has worked as a grant writer supporting arts and culture work at a nonprofit. Currently, she is a graduate student at the University of Chicago, working and learning within the city's region food/urban farming sector. In her free time, she enjoys meditating, listening to music and stories, learning, outdoor activities, stretching, walks, and good company.

 Jane Yang

Jane (she/her) expects actions to match words. Her professional experience includes fundraising for humanitarian crisis first responders; consulting for the US government and World Bank; strategy and research for a direct service provider to smallholder farmers; data wrangling for a community development financing institution and civic policy; and data analysis for a tech company with a soul. A resident of the Uptown neighborhood in Chicago, Jane is incredibly thankful to be surrounded by warm communities and delicious food. Jane perpetually misses being near mountains and cannot own enough plants. In her free time, when she’s not fundraising or asking/agitating her representatives and employer to support progressive policies, she’s cooking, reading, or (except during COVID-19) rock climbing.



Jennifer Hernandez

Jennifer is a first-generation Mexican-American and daughter of immigrants. She was born and raised in Oxnard, CA. In her current employment, she leads a team to reunify unaccompanied minors with their families in the United States. Her work with this population and close ties to immigration are the factors that inspired her to pursue a Master of Public Policy. Her interests lie heavily in immigration, specifically in immigration reform/pathway to citizenship, housing, education, and health care. She plans to serve her community with research, advocacy, and policy design to foster equity and liberation. She is a huge Kobe Bryant fan, a music lover, enjoys cleaning and cooking, and loves her family and dog.

Jessyca Dudley

Born and raised in Chicago, Jessyca has seen firsthand how philanthropy has often excluded communities and their perspectives. She has been on both sides of the system – seeking funding and making grants – and has seen how the opaque practices of philanthropy are used to regulate access to funding for BIPOC communities. Jessyca is the founder and CEO of Bold Ventures, a strategic advisory firm disrupting traditional philanthropy by building the capacity of BIPOC philanthropic leaders, developing customized equity-centered funder strategies, and facilitating organizational dialogues on race, equity, and social justice.

Joanna Preston

Joanna is a writer, artist, and southside Chicago native.  Since moving back to their hometown, they have worked in the nonprofit sector and volunteered with various groups around the city, giving them a firsthand account of the importance of grassroots community organizing and the obstacles these groups must work through.  In their creative work, they are dedicated to creating safe spaces for communal healing and uplifting the voices of marginalized folks.

Joy Clendenning

Joy is grateful for those in the past, present, and future who work for the world we need. Joy Clendenning (she/her/ella) is constantly learning and strives to be a co-conspirator led by those most impacted by our unjust world. She made Chicago her home in 1999 after living in New Hampshire, Boston, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Los Angeles. When she lived in Central America, Joy had the honor to learn from the revolutionary practices of Salvadoran refugees in Honduras, youth in Tegucigalpa, and communities in Managua. Joy immersed herself in the world of public education as a teacher, parent, activist, and organizer. She tries to center love, justice, solidarity, and joy in her life.

Kathleen Hayes

Kathleen Hayes (she/her) is a native Illinoisan and longtime Chicagoan, CPS parent, writer, educator, connector, and advocate. Her professional experience spans K12 education, journalism, and communications sectors. She is driven by her core values: equity, liberation, justice, joy, honesty, vulnerability, and continual learning and growth. Kathleen lives in North Center with her 11-year-old son. In her free time, she can be found at the beach, in a library or bookstore, on a running path and yoga mat, and listening to, learning from, and advocating for those directly affected by systemic racism, discrimination, and poverty.

Katie Madden

Katie Madden has worked at the Crossroads Fund since 2016 and, after being in close proximity to four Giving Projects, decided to experience one for herself.  Since starting at Crossroads Fund, Katie has experienced a shift in her beliefs and values. She is actively pursuing spaces where she can learn more about abolition, dismantling racist systems of oppression, and understanding her role in our white supremacist society (with a goal to move beyond learning and into action). Katie lives in Chicago with her husband, two teenage sons, and two cats. She likes to read, take pictures, watch way too much TV, cross-stitch, and walk on the beach collecting sea glass in her spare time.

Kendra Thomas

Kendra is the Co-founder and Senior Director of Community Engagement and Recruitment at Focus Fairies Mentoring, NFP. Currently, Kendra is the Director of the CityKey Program under the Office of the City Clerk, Anna Valencia. Kendra received her undergraduate degree from DePaul University, where she majored in Sociology with a minor in Psychology. In her senior year, Kendra took an experiential learning class that changed her life, fueling a passion for understanding underprivileged populations from Public Housing. Kendra grew up on the Near North Side of Chicago, where she currently resides. She has a MA in Human Resource Management from Keller Graduate School of Management.  Kendra previously served as a Young Professional Mentor for the inaugural Global Youth Ambassadors Leadership Program with Chicago Sister Cities International-World Business Chicago.

Matthew Clark

Matthew Clark (he/him) has lived in Chicago for the past 11 years and bartended nearly just as long. He is currently managing the beverage program for Lula Cafe in Logan Square. Having seen and participated in many nightlife events centered around fundraising for various causes in the hospitality industry, he’s excited to move beyond progress through purchase towards donor organizing for racial, social, and economic justice.

Maya Portillo

Raised in Tucson, Arizona, and Northwest Indiana in a home full of chingonas, Maya Portillo (she/her/ella) believes that everyone should have the opportunity to lead a life with dignity and believes that starts from birth. Maya has worked in early childhood education research and is fueled by the notion that equitable access to resources from a young age is transformative for children in years to come. As a recent transplant to Chicago, Maya works in early childhood education philanthropy. New to the philanthropy sector, Maya seeks to understand other ways of giving and movement building and learn more about the grassroots organizing efforts in Chicago. In her spare time, Maya is learning how to cook, volunteers at Open Books in Pilsen, organizes with Hoosier Action, and enjoys being in the company of her friends.

Monica Hamada-Peña

Monica Hamada-Peña (she/her) grew up learning the importance of building community, and as a result, has been committed to developing deep relationships with people around her. Born in Panama and raised in Chicago, she has firsthand experience witnessing and creating strong interpersonal relationships across cultures and life experiences. Currently, she works as a grant writer at Access Living, a direct service and advocacy nonprofit supporting and uplifting the disability community in Chicago. She is excited to apply her newfound knowledge from Crossroads to support anti-racist and inclusive organizing across the City. Monica enjoys watching TV in her free time, listening to music, singing to her cat, cooking, and is currently trying to keep her newfound knitting hobby afloat.


Naomi Borowsky

Naomi Borowsky (she/her) currently works with an incredible group of high school students on the After School Matters teen leadership council. She is passionate about centering youth voices and anti-adultist education. Naomi has also worked in community mental health, CPS community schools programming, outdoor education, and the Chicago rape crisis hotline. She is so excited to be in community with the 2021 Giving Project cohort because, as Mariame Kaba reminds us, "Everything worthwhile is done with other people."



Natalie Dibo

Natalie Dibo (she/her) has worked in the Jewish nonprofit sector for the past five years in two different non-denominational organizations. She is currently the Director of Engagement at Northwestern University Hillel, where she serves Jewish college students searching for community, conversation, meaningful practice, and self-definition. Natalie values engagement with ideas of gender and sexuality and their place in the systems which affect us all differently; her college education centered on classist and racist oppressions in the U.S. and abroad, felt heavily by women and queer people. She is ready to put her mind (and money!) to apply these values to the Giving Project cohort. Natalie can be found studying liberatory pieces of ancient Jewish text and practice, or walking her senior rescue dog, Quincy.

Priscilla Kersten

Priscilla Kersten (she/her) believes that all people should have the power to govern their lives. She is President of Square One Foundation, a private family foundation, a focus area of which is strengthening democracy. Participating in Crossroads Fund's 2021 Giving Project cohort will strengthen Priscilla’s relationships with community organizations on the front lines of change to support their work and vision for a more equitable Chicago. For years, Priscilla has been engaged with Chicago’s non-profit sector — primarily in the education and democracy space. Besides figuring out how to spend more time with her three adult children, Priscilla enjoys yoga, weight training, and hiking and is an avid reader. She enjoys cooking, eating, and a great glass of wine (or two).

Rae Chardonnay

Rae Chardonnay is an arts manager and sound artist from Chicago. She is the Founder of Black Eutopia (est. 2013), a series of segmented programming intended to cultivate space for marginalized communities. She is also a co-founder of the award-winning Party Noire, a cultural hub centering Chicago’s vibrant Black Queer creative communities and enterprises. Rae was recently noted as one of Chicago’s Top 5 DJs by NPR and Chicago’s Best DJ by the Chicago Reader.

Sarah Best

Sarah Best (she/her) has served for the past six years as the Grants Chair for New Harvest Foundation, an LGBTQ+ foundation in Wisconsin. A small business owner, artist, and writer, Sarah works with nonprofits and faith communities on digital marketing strategy and is a former artist-in-residence at Hyde Park Art Center. Her poems have appeared in The Yale Review and Painted Bride Quarterly. She cares deeply about equal access to education, health care; voting rights, drug policy, and criminal justice reform; LGBTQ+ youth and trans rights; disability justice; immigration justice; anti-racism movements; and the power of art to build community and transform hearts and minds.

Tracey Swanson

Tracey Swanson (he/him/his) has lived on Chicago's west and north sides since 2007. He's had the honor of volunteering with the Marjorie Kovler Center, Tanzania Development Support, Open Architecture Chicago, Links Hall, and The Chicago Community Trust on strategic planning, fundraising, communications, grantmaking, and event projects, and as an interpreter. He values kindness and empathy in himself and is delighted by the creativity and craft of others. In the past few years, he has been warmly welcomed into communities of writers and archers.

Zaynab Hameeduddin

Zaynab is passionate about building connections across communities in pursuit of systemic change. Throughout her career in global health, she has strived to work on behalf of marginalized communities, particularly those identifying as women. A longtime feminist and sexual/domestic violence advocate, she believes in intersectional approaches to violence prevention and response. She has recently returned to her birthplace of Chicago after a near-decade on the east coast and is excited to get involved in the amazing social change work happening in the city. She’s a pop-culture enthusiast and loves to make and experience all kinds of art.